Scott Price, who runs a blog and FB page promoting supralapsarianism, recently posted on his wall, and re-posted a note in the FB group "I am a Supralapsarian" that seems to run in a certain errant direction. Now, I have not been following the controversy over the supposed "free will debate" between Sonny Hernandez and Theodore Zachariades on the one side, and Leighton Flowers and Jonathan Pritchett on the other side, and I didn't even hear in full the two hour dissection Dr. James White did on his Dividing Line show. Generally, I have little interest in interactions where the side I am supposedly on holds to false teaching concerning the Gospel and is selective in their understanding of church history. This post by Scott Price follows at least a similar line of reasoning as Hernandez and Zachariades. Whether or not Price holds the same view as Hernandez and Zachariades on the topic, the similarities are just too common and disturbing, and I have decided to respond to the issue here.
The most disturbing section from the note is seen in these two paragraphs:
Those who are well-read, well-studied, with lettered credentials behind their name are who I blame for the most toxic spread of fake gospel-news by their endorsement of the false gospel of Arminianism. It is simple and very clear how this is done. They call Arminians their brothers. They imply it is merely error or inconsistency on the Arminian’s part, but we know that adding conditions or works to grace perverts the gospel of grace (Rom 11:6).
The Arminian, Semi-Pelegian and Pelegian preachers are guilty of preaching and teaching the false gospel for the hearers to believe it in the first place. That is bad enough, but those who should know better are the educated ones who claim to believe the free and sovereign grace who snuggle up to the false gospel and legitimize it by calling the Arminain their brother. They are the ones who spread the Fake News of Conditionalism being a legitimate gospel used to convert in God’s salvation. Arminianism is BAD NEWS, which conditions salvation on the sinner and displays a failed, false christ. This means the compromising Sovereign Grace, Calvinist, Reformed are promoting the same false gospel in the very spirit of anti-Christ.
Now, I have no wish to defend anyone and everyone who calls himself "Sovereign Grace, Calvinist, Reformed." In fact, I probably have no wish to defend more than 60% (an arbitrary estimated figure) of those who self-identify as such. My standpoint is as one from the creedal and confessional Presbyterian and Reformed tradition. That is my stance, and that is the ground upon which I will begin my interaction with the problematic views being promoted here.
Historical Theological critique
My first point of critique is the ahistorical and arbitrary manner of how Price determines what is or isn't heresy, coupled with a simplistic view of church history. It is rather insufficient to cite the Canons of Dordt, because citing Dordt without understanding or contextualizing what is happening at Dordt is to do to church history what eisegesis does to the biblical text in the disciplines of exegetical and biblical theology, i.e. proof-texting out of context. Yes, Dordt proclaimed Ariminianism as heresy. In fact, in Canons of Dordt (CD) 2 Rejection of Errors 3, the divines at Dordt charge the Arminians as those that "summon back from hell the Pelagian error." But what does this mean in the CONTEXT of early 17th century Dutch religious life and to what extent it applies today? It is not as simple as just to say, "Dordt claims Arminianism is heresy. Here in the 21st century we find some Arminians. Therefore they are heretics." Whoever argues this way shows they have not even begun to think correctly about historical issues and judgments, and whether on the "right" or "left" (whatever they mean when taken out of their normal political context), such mishandling of history is reprehensible.
The Arminians at Dordt were a scholarly group of theologians who knowingly and willfully rejected the Reformed faith. Quite a number of these classical Arminians turned "liberal" in their theology, with Conrad Vorstius rejecting the Trinity and dying a Socinian, while Hugo Grotius gave us the moral governmental theory of the atonement. And within a generation or two, Philip Limborch expressed the total apostasy of Remonstrant Arminianism by turning them into a rationalist movement, a fact which even the modern-day Arminian Roger Olsen acknowledges even as he tries to rehabilitate the original Remonstrants [Roger E. Olsen, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006), 23]. Thus, historically, the Remonstrants were not some hillbillies pratting about things they do not know. Rather, they were evil men knowingly promoting error that leads to greater apostasy in due time from the truth.
Much of modern Arminianism especially in the English-speaking world comes to us from the line of John Wesley, and his version is what is called "Evangelical Arminianism." As I have written in an article, Evangelical Arminianism is not the same as Classical Arminianism. And it is not just that Evangelical Arminianism affirms Total Depravity whereas Classical Arminianism obfuscates on total depravity, but rather that Evangelical Arminianism inconsistently couples an idea of prevenient grace sufficient for Man to respond to God with the idea that Man cannot respond to God's grace apart from God working in Man. In other words, Evangelical Arminianism is self-contradictory, and that actually saves it from being heretical like Classical Arminianism. This Evangelical Arminianism in its various permutations and reduction in intellectual sophistication for a popular audience is what we see in modern-day 21st century popular evangelical Arminianism.
Therefore, in light of the facts of church history, it is an error today for anyone including Scott Price to claim that the Arminianism that was judged as heretical at Dordt is necessarily the same as the many ArminianismS that populate the modern day Evangelical churches. This of course is not to say that no version of Arminianism is heretical, but it is to make the perfectly legitimate statement that not everything that terms itself as "Arminian" or "Arminianism" is heretical. There must be actual examination of the person's beliefs instead of mere sloganeering, and most definitely no blanket statement condemning ALL Arminians as necessarily heretics, which brings me to my next point.
Confusion of the Gospel
What is the Gospel? And how is anyone saved at all? According to Scripture, we are saved purely by faith in Jesus Christ (e.g. Eph. 2:8-9, Rom. 10:9-10), and the key description of faith is "trust." Salvation comes about when people repent of their sins and put their trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. When they do that, they are truly saved.
The reason why heresies are called "heresies" is that their teachings in some way impedes a person from believing the Gospel unto salvation. For example, the heresy of Modalism when believed causes a person to believe in a false god, which means that he cannot put his trust in Jesus Christ, for his "Jesus" is not the true Jesus the Son of God. Likewise, the heresy of Pelagianism when believed cause a person to not put his trust in Christ, but rather trust himself to be holy. The heresy of Classical Arminianism likewise causes a person to not put his trust in Christ, but rather to look at his faith, as what saves is his faith justifying him before God.
Therefore, heresies are heresies because they prevent a person from believing the Gospel. Otherwise, false doctrines which do not prevent a person from believing the Gospel is just that, a false doctrine which a believer might hold to. Belief in false doctrines is a sin, but it is hardly damning. For just as one is not perfect in holiness of life while on this earth, how can one expect any and all believers to be perfect in holiness of doctrine while on this earth? Sanctification is a process, and perfectionism is a false teaching that causes harm to all who hold to it. Thus, belief in false doctrines is not cause for utilizing the "heresy" label, unless one is a perfectionist, an error which I may add is taught by the Evangelical Arminian John Wesley AND the Pelagian Charles Finney. If one claims to be a "very pure" Calvinist, surely the mere association with the likes of Wesley and Finney would be detested!
In his attacks on Arminianism, Price asserts that Arminians themselves are not saved and therefore cannot be called "brother." What Price is doing therefore is elevating Arminianism into a heresy. But, as we have mentioned, the reason why any heresy damns is because it prevents a person from repenting of their sins and putting their trust in Jesus Christ. But what impediment to this action of repentance and faith do modern-day popular evangelical Arminianism pose? Price suggests that Arminianism denies Sola Gratia (Grace alone) and thus make salvation dependent on faith and work (using the idiosyncratic term "conditionalism" to that end). While that is the logical conclusion of Arminianism, this is not the teaching of Wesley's Evangelical Arminianism and most devolved strains of popular ArminianismS. Upon what basis are we to say that a person cannot be inconsistent? Price seems to suggest that we are to judge a person based on the logical conclusion of his (incoherent and contradictory) beliefs. But is it possible for anyone to be inconsistent? Again, are we perfectionists? Yes, a person OUGHT to be consistent. Yes, a person OUGHT to be fully biblical. But OUGHT is not IS. Just because something OUGHT to be does not make it the case.
Thus Price errs in claiming that Arminians are "adding conditions and works to grace." Most of them do not do so, and just because they logical OUGHT to do so if they are consistent does not imply they have done so. Again, one should discover what any self-professed Arminian actually believes before consigning them to hell, and disowning them as brothers, and one should not be hasty in doing either! Likewise, Price errs in claiming that those who are willing to call an Arminian a brother is saying that the "false gospel of conditionalism" is a "legitimate gospel." First, there is no such term as "conditionalism," neither is there a need for that term, so stop making things up. Second, the Gospel is not primarily about right doctrine. Right doctrine protects and informs the Gospel, while false doctrine diminishes the Gospel and heresies impedes the Gospel. There is no such thing as a "Gospel of Calvinism" neither is there a "false gospel of conditionalism." Third, nobody is saying that Arminianism in any variety is true, so such statements made by Price is a straw man, and I really really detest straw men!
As I have said, I have no wish to defend anyone or everyone who self-identifies as "Calvinist, Reformed etc." But I do not believe that Price is telling the truth in charging that many Calvinists are endorsing a false gospel. Again, what is the Gospel? It seems that for Price, either he believes that the Gospel is belief in Calvinism (therefore non-Calvinists are damned), or that he holds to perfectionism in doctrine, so that one is NOT allowed to be inconsistent and still be saved. Either option is wrong. The former is the error of Hyper-Calvinism, and the latter perfectionism. But Arminanism is heresy, you say. Well, Classical Arminianism is heresy, but Evangelical Arminianism is not. And just because a teaching is heresy does not mean that those who identify as such are consistent. Due to these reasons, most Calvinists have always held that we can call Arminians "brother," save those that hold to Classical Arminianism. And due to these reasons too, Price is in error in his attack against those of us who disagree, and in error against his brothers who are not Calvinists but yet have put their full trust in Jesus for their salvation.